Charmlee Wilderness Park

I’m a traveler. It is a known fact. I love to discover little hidden treasures around the world. Now, I am still very young and have not exactly traveled the globe, but I have been many places for my short time on this planet. I love to be outdoors and ever since I moved to Los Angeles, I am finding it very hard to go on my outdoor adventures. So, for a class assignment I was assigned to venture out into the wilderness nearby where I live..boy, was I pleasantly surprised by the beauty right outside my doorstep. The Southern California area is full of beautiful hidden treasures right outside the city!

I ventured out (with my co-adventurer, Lacey Smith) to Charmlee Wilderness Park located near the City of Malibu within the Santa Monica Mountains. This my friends, is a serious hidden treasure. I did not expect the beautiful landscape that I encountered. So many beautiful and breathtaking terrains and views.

The trip was actually supposed to be a guided hike to view local wildflowers. Unfortunately, the tour-guide never showed up, so we were guided by a local couple who knew the area well and species within it. This place seriously took my breath away. I felt so calm and at peace!

Beautiful Flowers and Plant-life..

(Click the photos to enlarge)

Gorgeous paths through the wilderness, from meadows to forests to cliffs..

And lets not forget the breathtaking views..

Overall, it was an amazing, breathtaking, experience! And most of these pictures were taken with my cell-phone! I will be going back to this place, and I encourage all of you to go as well!

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Apple Gorgonzola Salad

Apple Gorgonzola Salad, easily one of the best dishes I have ever eaten. I recently ordered this dish at Italian restaurant Buca Di Beppo in Los Angeles.. oh! Was I pleasantly surprised by this delicious creation! There is an explosion of flavors with every bite ranging from apples, berries, cheese, nuts, and zesty dressing.
As soon as I experienced this wonderful salad I knew I wanted to cook it up at home and add my own little twists to it. Which is exactly what I did! I made several variations to the original recipe to simplify it. For example, I substituted Granny Smith for Fuji Apples (I feel they have much sweeter notes and have a more exotic taste). I also simplified the somewhat complicated dressing included with the dish for a simple Italian Dressing straight off the shelf from the supermarket (this dish might also be good with a Raspberry Vinaigrette!). The other alteration I made was with the nuts, which I quickly roasted and candied instead of using their somewhat complicating spicing recipe.
I guess you can say that I somewhat simplified Buca Di Beppo’s recipe for Apple Gorgonzola Salad, but included the same, if not better, great taste! Let me tell you, the substitution of Fuji Apples and candied walnuts really added something to the taste of the salad.  I strongly recommend anyone to skip out on Buca Di Beppo and make this delicious dish in the comfort of your own home with this simplified recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1 – Fuji Apple (Or apple of your choice)
  • 3/4 cup – Walnuts (candied..we will get to this process in a bit)
  • 3 Tbs – Gorgonzola Cheese
  • 3 Tbs – Dried Cranberries
  • Romaine Lettuce (amount desired)
  • Italian Dressing (amount desired)

Instructions:

First, you need to candy your walnuts! Now..I may sound a little lame here but I’ve never candied nuts before. I also didn’t know how easy the process was! Come on..it’s not like I’m Paula Deen!?

But seriously, all you need is the nuts of your choice and sugar. Yep, that’s it.

Here is the simple process to Candy Walnuts (which I’m sure many of you already know, this is just for my fellow blondes out there ;):

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Throw about 1-1/2 cups of nuts onto a baking sheet and cook for about 5 minutes (do not let them burn).
  • Let them cool for a bit.
  • Heat about 1/3 cup sugar over medium heat until melted and golden brown.
  • Throw your nuts into the melted sugar and cover all of the walnuts.
  • Remove from heat and back onto baking sheet then begin breaking apart nuts with a spoon.

That's it!

Now let’s get back to the salad!

  • Chop your lettuce, apple, and crumble your cheese (if needed).
  • Throw all ingredients into a large bowl.
  • Toss with dressing.
  • Garnish with remaining apples, cranberries, cheese, and walnuts.

So so good! Btw, doesn't this picture remind you of Twilight? Hehe..

Music <3 Of Monsters & Men

Usual posts seen at Delightful Discoveries usually consist of delicious recipes, free-lance poetry, or just random check-ins from myself and what I’m currently experiencing. When I first started this blog I really wanted to have a section that displayed great music. Music isn’t exactly something seen within the title,  but is such a significant part of my life that can be hard to leave out of things. Music is so wonderful. It is a part of me. I could not live without it. I am constantly looking for new artists and obsessing over the old. Music is a passion of mine. I  have confidence that I have an impeccable taste when it comes to music and do not discriminate any genres. Good music is good music. Lately, I stray away from pop and radio and more towards great song writing incorporated well into great instrumentals. Let’s just say, I’ve become somewhat of a music critic over the years.
If you look along the side bar you will notice a music category with not many posts contributed. This is due to the fact that it is becoming difficult to incorporate my love for music into the usual themes seen at my blog. Well, I cannot leave music out of anything. I’m learning this. So if you enjoy good music, my blog may be the place to visit. For a steady contribution to the music section of my blog, I have decided to add a weekly submission of great songs, albums, or artists that I currently find absolutely wonderful. Sharing music interests can be a wonderful conversation; music interests can really let you know a few things about a person. So please, your feedback is encouraged!

This first contribution to the music category is an alternative/folk/rock band from Iceland called Of Monsters & Men. First off let me say, I am in love with this group. Musically, this band’s style represents everything I am into right now. Beautiful lyrics, charming melodies, and a wonderful use and incorporation of traditional instruments. The songs are so well written and are portrayed beautifully through vocals and instruments. Some of the songs are very upbeat while others have a serious note. I first heard their single Little Talks (which has a darker tone) on the radio, which I instantly found amazing. I was captivated by the dramatic use of instruments and stunning vocals. After loving Little Talks I quickly went in search of more music, which lead me to their EP Into The Woods. I was not disappointed. While there were only four songs, I knew this band had some potential (I just had to wait patiently for their album to be released the following week). I listened to Little Talks on repeat for days and was also captivated by their dreamy track From Finner.

So a week later, their album My Head is an Animal was released..and people I am in love! I cannot stop listening. I love when I get captivated by a new artist and a great new album, and Of Monsters and Men did just that. This album seems to calm me down and take me away with my imagination. The songs are very imaginative themselves and take you far away from the busy congested city and into a far away forest. The songs race around with trumpets, drums, violins, and powerful vocals and lyrics..I honestly cannot get enough. The album has a very traditional sound but with modern influences that only sweeten it up. So let’s talk songs. My favorite and one of the album’s best is Mountain Sound. You can’t help but feel truly happy and adventurous when you listen to this track. It takes you away to a road trip with your friends in the mountains and forest. You gotta love the booming chorus! Another great track is the last on the album, Yellow Light, which resembles a lullaby that is almost hypnotizing. Others to check out are King and Lion Heart, Lake House, and Slow and Steady (which is very calming). Basically the entire album is amazing and you will not be disappointed, take my word for it! I promise this is group anyone would enjoy..so what are you waiting for, go get it!

And if you would be delighted to discover more great music in the future, be sure to keep following!

Baking For Life

It is always a good feeling when you give back. One day I told myself that great things would come from this blog. Well, I guess you can say that it is already happening.

Our team!

My dear friend Lacey Smith, knowing of my blog, had recently approached me wondering if I would like to bake goods to sale and fund-raise for our local Relay For Life. Of course I could not say no, especially for such a great cause. It was such a good feeling to bring all of the work that I poured into this blog towards something that is so meaningful. I was first very touched and then honored to be involved in something as wonderful as the Relay For Life. Also, it is nice to know that my blogging is finding its way out into the community.

Of course, the big question was..what am I going to bake for the event?? I really wanted to bake some of my best goodies and sweets from Delightful Discoveries that would for sure sale. I needed sweet, tasty, colorful, & creative..so I settled on my:

  • Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
  • Soda Can Cupcakes
  • Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

The sweets for sale!

Well, I ended up baking about 100 items total while borderline exhausted. Of course I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I was assisted by my wonderful gal pal Lacey, who was very helpful with the baking and frosting of cupcakes. She was the sprinkle master and container engineer behind the project! Let’s just say, we had to get creative! Anywho, everything sold great! As far as I know, everything that I had baked sold! The Oreo-stuffed cookies were sold-out right as they hit the table and the cupcakes were quick to follow! I even had to go home during the event and bake another batch! But, like I said, it was really no trouble when you’re working towards such a good cause! It was such a delightful experience!

Me!

Megan!

Lacey!

Lately, all I hear is how people love my blog! So wonderful! But, I can honestly say it has taken time to get noticed and still has a lonnnnnnng way to go! I am encouraged by all the support and still surprised that I am still going forward with this blogging project and I hope to continue! Also, I will for sure be baking and participating in the Relay For Life in the future..:)

Photos by Christopher James Sigman.

My Week as a Vegetarian

Delightful Discoveries is Vegetarian Friendly!

A class project led to something I once believed would be the ultimate challenge – a vegetarian diet; let’s just say, it didn’t turn out to be much of a challenge at all. Coming from a former lover of meat – that juicy flavorful porterhouse or a zesty lemon pepper chicken – as I’ve grown, my desire of meat has depleted somewhat. As I grow older I notice my strong desire for fresh. I’m quite sure how to explain it; I desire fresh foods from fresh ingredients. Meat lately just seems to be lacking the ability to pack that special punch to my taste buds. Who knows, maybe I’m turned off by the unhealthy facts surfacing and surrounding red meat?

A vegetarian diet was never something I really considered. A past fear of mine always would resurface. . .could I really live without meat? As I’ve grown, of course my fear has decreased.

A class project led to the challenge of a vegetarian diet. I was assigned to either stop, start, or change something within my life for the course of 7 days. Food seems to be a primary factor within my life, why not try a vegetarian diet?? I did allow myself the exception of dairy because I cannot live without cheese and it as my main source of calcium.

Well I went forward with my challenge and guess what?! I was successful! I breezed through my week as a vegetarian, dodging any bothersome obstacles. I was able to really reflect on my diet and eating habits – some of my findings were pretty surprising! I really had no strong desire to consume meat products and I feel great!

While reflecting on my diet and eating habits over my week as a vegetarian, I was able to learn some fascinating facts about myself. Most significantly, the fact that I do not really consume that many meat products. The only meat I really consume is chicken breast; white meat is always better than red meat! For the most part, I was basically already living a semi-vegetarian lifestyle!

The question is now that I’ve experienced a vegetarian lifestyle, should I stick with it? Could I give up meat forever? This is a question that I do not yet have an answer for. When you’re a cooker and an eater like myself, giving up meat may end up with a lack of experiences. So, maybe I am not ready yet? After my week of change, I know that I no longer have a fear of lack of meat, and could possibly consider a vegetarian diet in the future!

Some Helpful Tips:

Either way, my week as a vegetarian was very beneficial. From someone who has experienced this type of diet to someone who may be considering it, here are a few tips I learned while eating a vegetarian diet, as well as some healthy alternatives to your everyday diet:

  • The importance of protein – The only issue I felt during my week as a vegetarian was my small problem of feeling full. Be sure to stock up on your beans and nuts. Protein is your friend. Trade in those burgers & try my delicious Veggie Black Bean Burgers. Also if you are looking for a fun chili, trade in the traditional for my delightful Veggie Black Bean Chili. Whatever it may be, remember to eat your beans!! Also, go to your local market and buy yourself a good large can of mixed nuts.
  • Overload on your Greens – Veggies, Veggies, Veggies! If you’re looking for that fresh that I love, go to your produce section at the market and load up on those greens! Pick yourself up a head of broccoli, bag of carrots, several green bell peppers, cucumbers, etc. A great tip is to substitute your chips for chopped cucumber with a side of ranch.
  • Trade your sweets for fruit – Fruit is your friend kids. It truly is. Nature’s candy is truly much better than mans. Try cutting up your apples and sprinkling them with a dash of brown sugar and cinnamon. Whenever you feel your sweet tooth going nuts, go cut yourself up some fruit. My best tip here is to go to your local market and buy whatever is in season. If you absolutely cannot live without the sweets, add a few semi-sweet chocolate chips to your bowl of apples or other cut of fruit.
  • A Vegetarian Diet can be inexpensive – Coming from a college student on a budget – this diet can be done without breaking the bank! Many people shy away from healthy foods because of high prices, they do not realize that some healthy foods are really cheap! Like I said before, buy your produce that is on sale! Also, many name brand products are available generic for much cheaper with the same great taste.

I had a great experience eating a vegetarian diet and applaud anyone who lives this lifestyle. I have posted several tasty vegetarian recipes on Delightful Discoveries and trust me, you can expect to see many more! I also plan to add a vegetarian category to my recipe selection so those dishes can be easily accessible.

If you are looking for some tasty Vegetarian dishes check out these recipes on my page:

  • Broccoli & Cheddar Soup with Macaroni
  • Vegetarian Black Bean Chili
  • Black Bean Veggie Burgers
  • Randy’s Veggie Pizza
  • Black Bean Soup
  • & Many many more 🙂

Broccoli & Cheddar Soup with Macaroni

A recipe inspired by rainy days while wandering the market – Broccoli & Cheddar Soup with Macaroni will be the perfect remedy to your rainy day. While this has always been my favorite soup, the added ingredient of macaroni really does something wonderful to this dish. The cheesy goodness mixed with the flavorful broccoli & other ingredients will not only satisfy your taste buds, but warm you up on those cold & rainy days. Also, an added bonus of this recipe is the health benefits; it is very low in fat and calories and is also vegetarian friendly!

Broccoli & Cheddar Soup with Macaroni:

Ingredients:

  • 8 Oz – Dry Elbow Macaroni
  • 1 1/2 Cups – Onion (Chopped)
  • 2 – Carrots (Chopped)
  • 1 – Celery Stalk (Chopped)
  • 3 Cloves – Garlic (Chopped)
  • 1 Tbs – Butter (Melted)
  • 2 Tbs – Flour
  • 3 Cups – Vegetable Broth (You can also use Chicken Broth)
  • 1 Cup – Milk
  • 2 1/2 Cups – Broccoli Florets (Chopped)
  • 2 Cups – Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 2 Tbs – Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste

Instructions:

  • In a large pot, begin melting your butter.
  • Begin chopping up your celery, carrots, onion, & garlic.
  • Begin sauteing in pot over medium low heat for 5 minutes or until soft.
  • Boil your macaroni in salted water until tender; Drain, set aside.

  • Add in flour & pepper and stir until smooth.
  • Slowly add in your broth & milk while whisking constantly.
  • Set to medium-high heat until it comes to a boil then cover and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add in broccoli and parmesan cheese; stir well. Cook uncovered until broccoli is cooked & soft.

  • Add Cheddar mixing well until cheese melts, then immediately remove from heat.
  • Add in cooked macaroni and add salt & pepper.

Garnish with cheese & a side of cheese bread! Enjoy!

Together

By: Randy Sorensen

Together:

This storm we have long weathered,
Hand in hand we remain together.
Running through smoky mountain trails,
Headed for the hills, to the sea we shall sail.

I can hear the splash of the rain drops,
The shock of your touch, as my heart stops.
The dancing shadows of candle light,
Together we listen to the melody of the night.

How we weave through these Appalachian dreams,
My wedding gown torn at the seams.
If we could just stop and take a breath,
It is only you; you are all I have left.

The lightning flashes deep in the night,
To long we have fought this fight.
I curl my body to the warmth of your soul,
Your eyes black as midnight, mirrored of coal.

I can hear the piano out in the wild,
A lullaby I run to like a child.
A waltz we dance to the violin,
In the forest with your touch of sin.

Father’s warning of forbidden love,
Your arms around me; you fit like a glove.
The wind that sparks their wildfires,
You have awakened my deepest desires.

Together we shall run; together we shall remain,
Hide me away, take away the pain.
Hold me close, as you keep me warm,
Together we remain to weather the storm.

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

Now, I am not a vegetarian but I do cook a lot of vegan friendly recipes. I always find them as tasty and healthy alternatives. I also love me some black beans, so that is why you are seeing yet another post containing black beans. This Black Bean Chili recipe could not be more perfect and it’s a simple & healthy alternative to a regular chili recipe. It is simple, fast, healthy, cheap, & oh so tasty. It will only take you about 30 minutes total to make, but will have amazing flavor like you have slow-cooked this meal for hours. Literally, the flavors are explosive, mouthwatering, and delicious! Take my word for it! This recipe also includes easy ingredients you will commonly find are already inside your pantry. It is also perfect as a quick meal for those super busy days when you do not feel like cooking. Either way, I highly recommend it!

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup – Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 – Onion (Chopped)
  • 1 – Red Bell Pepper (Chopped)
  • 5 – Garlic Cloves (Chopped)
  • 2 Tbs – Chili Powder
  • 2 Tsp – Dried Oregano
  • 1 1/2 Tsp – Cumin
  • 1 – Bay Leave
  • 2 Tsp – Hot Sauce (Or you can use 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper)
  • 3 Cans – Black Beans (Reserve 1/2 cup liquid)
  • 1 16 oz Can – Tomato Sauce

Instructions:

  • Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add onions, bell pepper, & garlic then saute for about 10 minutes (or until tender).
  • Mix in Cumin, Oregano, Chili Powder, Bay Leave, & Hot Sauce (or Cayenne Pepper). Stir for 2 minutes.

  • Add in beans, reserved liquid, & tomato sauce.
  • Bring Chili to boil while stirring occasionally. (This is all going to smell so good!!)
  • Reduce heat to medium low to simmer and to allow flavors to mix for about 15 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt & pepper. Top with cheese and other toppings of your choice!

Wish Avenue.

This poem is based on a true place just a few blocked from where I live. I discovered it while going for a walk and my imagination went away with it. Hope you like 😉

Wish Avenue:

The last bright light in a city of blues,
Wish Avenue always brings me back to you.
Lost in the valley of the broken-hearted,
The last lingering love of the dearly departed.

The fragrant flowers and shady trees,
The lane is full of old memories.
The warm breeze so light and airy,
Somehow late February is a little less scary.

My hair is now silver,
My heart has aged.
These flowers pressed from my bouquet,
Of Midnight Jasmine and Winter Sage.

Alone I stand where you proposed,
On a warm late February long ago.
You walked me down Wish Avenue,
The day you made my dreams come true.

In the heat of summer, I am now chilled to the bone,
Ever since you left me alone.
The city is now a somber place,
Now that I am without your warm embrace.

I now walk this street in reverie,
Lost in a distant memory.
Your brown hair and golden eyes,
As you walked me under the deep blue sky.

As I walk alone down Wish Avenue,
I long for the days back with you.
With all my heart I make a wish,
Just for one more last kiss.

The Importance of Patience.

Patience. I’m learning everyday the importance of patience. It is a quality that I wish I utilized more often. I constantly think of the word patience when I reflect on my surroundings. I live in Los Angeles; one of the largest cities in the entire world. While this city can be wonderful at times, the extensive number of people constantly around me can be overwhelming at times. If you have ever driven in this city, gone out to a social event, etc. you understand the importance of having patience

I’m learning that a life without patience can be suffocating. Sometimes I have to tell myself sit back and just breathe. As I learn more about the importance of patience, I will utilize it more often within my life.

I can bring the importance of patience to my blog. As time goes by and with every post, I’m learning that in order to have a sufficient, meaningful, and fulfilling work to post on Delightful Discoveries, it must be something that comes from within. It must come from some artistic inspiration or desire to express myself or also from a certain experience. Sometimes I get the feeling that I must rush and post a recipe or poem, because if I do not I will disappoint or lose my audience. I’m learning that in order to properly express myself, I need to exercise patience.

With every recipe, craft, or poem I need to remember not to rush inspiration, but let it come to me. As I discover more about myself, I now recognize the importance of patience.

So now I ask you, my wonderful readers to have patience when you stumble upon my blog, Delightful Discoveries. Also remember, great things come to those who wait.

xoxo..